Patients with cancer who are suffering unpleasant side effects including pain, nausea, or lack of appetite may be curious about the potential benefits of medicinal marijuana. You should know what medical marijuana is, what the science says about it, and whether or not it is legal to use before you decide to try it.
Exactly what is weed/marijuana?
Weed, often known as marijuana, is made from the dried leaves and flowers of the Cannabis sativa plant, which thrives in hot, humid areas all over the globe. The Drug Enforcement Administration has classified marijuana as a Schedule I prohibited drug, meaning that it is illegal to prescribe, sell, or buy in the United States. But in other areas, it may be used for both recreational purposes and medicinal ones (including cancer therapy). Unfortunately, the FDA has not yet greenlighted the plant for therapeutic use in the United States.
However, cannabis’ potential in the treatment of cancer remains a fertile ground for further study. More and more states are legalizing medicinal marijuana, but there are still those who question whether or not it should be used for medical purposes. Medical marijuana is an intriguing potential symptom relief alternative for cancer sufferers. However, many doctors and other medical professionals warn their patients to approach with caution and have a detailed discussion with their doctor about all therapy alternatives before deciding on one.
The use of medical marijuana is said to assist cancer patients deal with some of the treatment’s negative effects. Where do these assertions stand in relation to reality?
Cannabinoids: what are they?
Cannabinoids are the physiologically active molecules found in marijuana, which also goes by the names pot, cannabis, ganja, and grass. Cannabidiol (CBD) and delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) are two examples. CBD does not affect mental states in the same way as THC does, hence the former may be used recreationally while the latter cannot. The concentration of cannabinoids in marijuana varies from strain to strain. Depending on the relative concentration of various cannabinoids, many cannabis strains provide a wide range of varying effects.
Few cannabis medications have been authorized by the Food and Drug Administration. These items are:
To combat chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting in cancer patients and HIV/AIDS-related anorexia and weight loss, doctors prescribe dronabinol (Marinol®, Syndros®), a gelatin capsule containing a synthetic form of THC.
Synthetic cannabinoid Nabilone (Cesamet®) helps with chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting by acting similarly to THC Cannabidiol (CBD) in Epidiolex is used to treat seizures caused by two uncommon forms of epilepsy (Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome)
Nabiximols, an oral spray form of the cannabinoid nabilone, is not yet licensed by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), although it has showed promise in treating cancer pain, muscular spasms, and multiple sclerosis discomfort in animal studies (MS).
When used therapeutically, how can cannabinoids influence cancer symptoms?
Cancer patients may get relief from their pain and nausea due to the THC in marijuana. CBD acts as an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant. The effects of marijuana vary depending on whether it is consumed orally, smoked, inhaled, or vaped.
When THC is consumed orally, whether it in the form of oils, food, or beverages, it is metabolized by the liver more slowly. It’s difficult to determine how much THC is in marijuana-infused foods and whether or not eating them will result in an overdose.
Marijuana’s psychoactive component, THC, is rapidly absorbed into the circulation and transported to the brain after being smoked or vaporized. Its benefits are felt considerably sooner than when taken orally, but they wear off much quicker as well.
In terms of cancer treatment, some research suggests that marijuana helps alleviate neuropathic pain and reduce nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy. The American Cancer Society reports that individuals who utilize marijuana for pain management often use fewer painkillers overall.
What about medical marijuana?
Tetrahydrocannabinol is what gives marijuana (cannabis) its psychoactive effects (THC). Some users have reported that THC helped them feel less nauseated, more hungry, and in less pain overall. Schedule III drugs, including the synthetic THC derivative dronabinol, are produced and marketed because they pose a low to moderate risk of physical or psychological dependency and may be obtained only with a doctor’s prescription. To ensure their purity, efficiency, and safety, the FDA places stringent regulations on these pharmaceuticals.
Dronabinol has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting and anorexia associated with AIDS wasting syndrome. It’s worth noting that ingesting or smoking cannabis (marijuana) may also result in a THC high. However, the FDA does not control the dose of these plant-based versions. Since marijuana may have such a wide range of benefits and adverse effects, this variation might make it less useful or more harmful for consumers.
How about the negative effects of marijuana?
While THC’s anti-nausea and appetite-booster effects are welcome, its cognitive impairment and long-term association with schizophrenia, depression, and bipolar disorder are not. Furthermore, THC may cause respiratory issues such chronic bronchitis.
Whether you’re taking many prescriptions, how can you know if marijuana will affect them?
Marijuana, like any other drug, might increase the severity of an existing negative effect. You should consult your doctor before taking any new medications or supplements, and you should always ask your doctor about any adverse reactions or drug interactions.
Does medicinal marijuana qualify for reimbursement from insurance companies?
Although some states have legalized medical marijuana, federal law still classifies it as a Schedule I narcotic, indicating it has no accepted medical value and a high potential for misuse. This means that medical marijuana cannot be administered by doctors or sold in pharmacies. Most insurance companies will pay the cost of the medication dronabinol, which includes the active component THC, but they will not cover the cost of medical marijuana.
If marijuana were to be used for medicinal purposes, what proof would there be?
There is now just anecdotal data to support the usage of medicinal marijuana. Few randomized controlled trials have looked at the pros and cons of marijuana usage. To yet, there is insufficient evidence to make an informed medical decision on the efficacy of medicinal marijuana.
What are my options for obtaining medicinal marijuana?
In certain states, possessing or using marijuana for medicinal purposes is legal, while in others, it is not. To legally purchase medicinal marijuana from a dispensary in many jurisdictions, patients need to have a valid medical marijuana card.
Patients and their doctors should work together on medical decisions. What steps a doctor must take to procure a product after concluding a medical need exists for it differs from state to state. All patients and their doctors are responsible for learning about and following any local, state, and federal laws and regulations.